JENNIFER JACKSON’S PORT TOWNSEND NEIGHBOR COLUMN: Lots of history through the mill

IN 1968, LARRY LOUCK was a student at Port Angeles High School when he heard that the Crown Zellerbach mill in Port Townsend was hiring. Coming over for an interview, he got the job, even though technically he wasn’t old enough.

“I didn’t lie,” he said, “I just couldn’t remember how old I was.”

Louck went to work the next night up on the monorail, he said, running the tipper on the swing shift for $2.99 an hour.

On Sunday, he made the six-hour trip from Republic to be in town for the 27th annual Port Townsend Crown Zellerbach retirees’ luncheon on Monday.

“I came to see people I hadn’t seen in years,” Louck said.

Held at the Highway 20 Roadhouse, the luncheon drew 87 people, many of whom started at the mill when they were in high school.

In the old days, according to Lloyd Wightman of Port Townsend, if you were 16 years old, you could work for the mill after school and in the summers.

A 1947 Port Townsend High School graduate, Wightman said the welding skills he learned were invaluable SEmD he paid his way through the University of Washington working as a welder and blacksmith for the university and at the mill in the summer.

With his college degree, Wightman worked for Crown Z in Seattle; Houston; Bogalusa, La.; Atlanta; St. Francisville, La.; and in South Glens Falls and Carthage, N.Y.

“I got to know my first Amish family,” he said of the latter posting.

Wightman’s father also worked in the mills, moving from a Crown Z job in Camus to the Rayonier mill in Port Angeles in 1940, when Wightman started high school.

Betty Nelson’s father, Al Bogan, came to Port Townsend to open the Crown Z office and hire people to get the mill going in 1927. He was only supposed to stay a year, she said, but liked the area so much, that he settled his young family here.

For Betty, who went to work at the mill in 1948, the early mill managers SEmD Messrs Lowenstein, Erickson, Ziel SEmDare more than just names.

“They were all in my father’s poker group,” she said.

Monday’s luncheon, which is open to all, drew 87 people, including Louck, who retired in 2006, and spouse, Cathy, who were attending for the first time.

Another first-timer, Gregg Knowles, worked at the mill until April of last year.

Knowles said Alyce Hansen indoctrinated him into the mill in 1972 and helped get all the retirement documents on file when Crown Z sold it in 1983.

Now he has time to attend the luncheon and can go steelhead fishing with Micky Powers, who was superintendent of the craft mill and powerhouse when Knowles was assistant superintendent.

“We couldn’t do that before,” he said.

Warren Grondahl started working at the mill while going to college, attending Peninsula College during the week and working swing shifts Friday and Saturday and days Sunday in the old wet (pulp) plant for $2.39 an hour.

“It was a good wage,” he said.

Grondahl worked on the No. 2 paper machine, as did his predecessor, Bob Prill of Quilcene.

Prill put in about 40 years at the mill, he said, where he was the sixth hand on the paper machine.

He “punched out” at age 62, he said, and now, at 82, is the sole survivor of his machine shift.

“We’re all dinosaurs here,” Prill joked as he posed with friends for photos.

At a brief program following the luncheon, Paul Jacobsen read the names of people who had died since a letter with reunion details went out last month SEmD Milt Nebel, Norm Rogers, Jim Thompson.

Frank Borgstrom read letters from Reed Hunt and Phil Richmond, who couldn’t attend.

Two pairs of brothers attended the luncheon SEmD Bob and Joe Larson, who both started working at the mill in 1961, and Bill and Curt Russ. Curt started working at the mill in 1943, he said, and retired in 1982. Bill started in 1936, when he was 16 years old, and retired in 1992 at the age of 62.

His stint SEmD 47 ½ years SEmD was a record until two weeks ago, when Doug Larson beat it.

“He wouldn’t quit working,” Bill said.

Betty Nelson’s father didn’t either SEmD in 1952, when he was one year from retirement, Al Bogan passed away at the age of 63.

The company presented her mother, Alma Bogan, with the Crown Zellerbach crest, which Betty wears around her neck on a chain. The crest is a silver Z on a small black disk, a crown over the Z, with three small diamonds in the crown.

________

Jennifer Jackson writes about Port Townsend and Jefferson County every Wednesday. To contact her with items for this column, phone 360-379-5688 or e-mail jjackson@olypen.

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